The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) recognized the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry at the annual tourism awards program held during Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the MSU Riley Center in Meridian last week. The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), a division of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, was honored with two awards at the event. Director of Tourism, Paige Hunt, was awarded MTA’s Member of the Year and the Starkville CVB received the Best Overall Digital Media award.
“Mississippi’s tourism industry is thriving,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “Every day more and more people are falling in love with our state – and it’s easy to see why. There’s a beauty to Mississippi that is uniquely inspiring, and it’s hard to find nicer people than Mississippians. Thank you to the Mississippi Tourism Association for telling Mississippi’s story, and congratulations to all of the award winners!”
These awards give MTA the opportunity to recognize members who excel in various sectors of the industry. Awards were presented in 18 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement.
This year’s recipient of the Member of the Year award was given to Paige Hunt of Visit Starkville: Mississippi’s College Town. It is special because it honors an outstanding member whose efforts have made a significant contribution to the association. This person consistently goes above and beyond in all that they do.
“It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to celebrate these talented members who work tirelessly for their communities and organizations. These awards are very competitive and that is a testament to the caliber of work being produced by our partners and the overall strength of Mississippi tourism. It is our honor to work together with these outstanding professionals to continue to grow and prosper our industry,” said MTA Executive Director, Danielle Morgan.
MTA’s success depends on its members and their dedication to serving the hospitality industry. Hunt has been actively involved in tourism for more than 20 years. She has served in various capacities as an MTA member including serving on task forces, committees, and on the board of directors.
In addition to giving her time, she also gives of herself to encourage her peers. There has never been a time where she does not take an opportunity to make her fellow hospitality professionals feel welcome and feel a sense of belonging to MTA. She is one of the biggest cheerleaders for Mississippi and embodies what it means to be in hospitality in The Hospitality State.
Hunt is an experienced destination marketer who has worked at both the state and local level. She joined The Partnership in 2021 as the Director of Tourism. Prior to joining The Partnership, she served as Director of Sales & Visitor Services at Visit HATTIESBURG. Before that, she served as Senior Bureau Manager for Tourism Communications at the Mississippi Development Authority.
She currently serves as Treasurer for the Mississippi Destination Marketing Organization Association, on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Tourism Association, as Secretary of the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area Alliance and as President of the Board of Directors for the Starkville Community Theatre.
“The Mississippi tourism industry thrives with dedicated individuals who share a heartfelt commitment to enhancing their communities and our state as desirable destinations to visit, reside, and thrive. We commend their exceptional contributions to our state’s fourth-largest industry and appreciate their unwavering support for the Mississippi Tourism Association’s mission, which unites the entire tourism sector through advocacy, education, and promotion. We extend our warmest congratulations to all our award recipients for their remarkable achievements and offer our best wishes for their ongoing success,” said Christy Burns, 2023-2024 president of MTA.
This year’s recipient of the Best Overall Digital Media award was given to Visit Starkville: Mississippi’s College Town. This award is given to the tourism entity that has effectively integrated digital media into their marketing and communications plan by developing relationships and building valuable users. In addition, this entity has analyzed, adapted and improved their strategy to perfect their overall digital media efforts.
In October 2021, the Starkville CVB rolled out a comprehensive digital marketing campaign targeting key drive markets within the state along with neighboring states’ biggest cities, such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and Memphis.
The campaign strategy was to generate brand awareness of Starkville and entice potential visitors to make Starkville their next road trip destination on non-game weekends. Campaign tactics included paid social media promotion, site retargeting, geofenced ads, search display ads, sponsored content articles, and more. Through May 31, 2023, the campaign has generated well over 36,000,000 impressions and over 212,000 clicks through to Starkville.org.
“I have worked in tourism for more than 20 years and to be recognized for my dedication to this industry as MTA’s Member of the Year is truly humbling. I am also very proud of the work we are doing to promote Starkville: Mississippi’s College Town as a destination and was thrilled that work was recognized with the award for Best Overall Digital Media,” said Director of Tourism Paige Hunt.